Illegal sea crossings have recently been growing in popularity for people desperate to leave crisis-stricken Lebanon in search of a better life. On Sunday, the Lebanese Army intercepted a new boat crossing the Mediterranean from Lebanon.
Aboard the boat that the Army stopped were 37 people, including women and children, who were heading to Cyprus. They were identified as 34 Syrian nationals, 2 Lebanese, and 1 Palestinian.
By the time the boat was intercepted, after having been located by naval radars, it had already traveled 8 kilometers away from Tripoli’s Ramkeen Island in North Lebanon.
The statement released by the Army on Sunday said that the Intelligence Directorate arrested the organizer of the human smuggling operation, in addition to the individuals on the boat.
Risking their lives, people have been boarding these “Death Boats” in hopes of being granted asylum in Cyprus, which is more than 200 km away from Tripoli, the most common departure point for these dangerous crossings.
However, Cyprus has not been keen on taking in these asylum-seekers. A recent Human Rights Watch report even accused Cypriot marine police of threatening and beating some of them, before forcing them back to sea.
In mid-September, UNIFIL announced that it had saved 36 people aboard a vessel off the Lebanese coast after having been lost at sea for days, without food or water, because their smugglers had prevented them from taking items with them.
The illegal and life-threatening sea crossings remain a serious issue for both Lebanese and Cypriot authorities, both of which have pledged to cooperate to put an end to them.